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OBAMA HIRES: Surprisingly Brilliant...Or Obscure & Disappointing?

Thelma There's part of me that's been excited and curious about all the new and relatively unknown faces that the Obama administration is picking for its top education jobs. It would have been sort of disappointing and bland if things had turned out predictably with lots of Clintonistas and self-promoters at the helm. Yay, surprises.

But this week gave us yet another little-known appointee, and I'm starting to wonder.  She's Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, for ESEA head. And, just like Arne Duncan, she wasn't exactly at the top of everyone's lists. She's got less than three years at the helm of a smallish district (Pomona), before that a stint with a smallish foundation (Stupski), and little if any experience with high schools (supposedly the focus of a lot of attention in the new NCLB). She's got a PhD in Philosophy (or  Education, depending on who's talking).

But she's not a Broad Prize winner, or a nationally known researcher.  She's got a bad blog.  So how'd she get the job?  Being from California doesn't hurt.  Ditto for the foundation connections.  She's pretty clearly an elementary school person, also an advantage.  Everyone will deny it, but female and Latina is part of the equation, too.  Especially the Latina part.  She's only the second Latina (the other is Gabby Gomez for leg affairs).


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What makes her blog bad?

sentimental, hallmark-y, not updated frequently. i'm not sure what the point is

blog link?

Sentimental and genuine (she may get treacly at times but I don't think it is contrived) would seem like a good strategy for building trust with parents and teachers (who tend to be sentimental about their kids and jobs, particularly with younger kids), and as we know, trust is crucial in school reform. She's clearly writing for a local audience.

Linky: http://www.pusd.org/education/components/whatsnew/default.php?

Thelma Melendez was one of the educators I regularly turned to when I was reporting on education for the Los Angeles Times. I always found her to be very smart, open and willing to explain things to me, knowledgeable of research, non-ideological and pragmatic. She believed deeply that public schools needed to do a better job of serving the needs of children. Seems like a perfect choice for this role.

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